On Thursday at NYCC 2018 I was able to sit down with Starcraft: Scavengers author Jody Houser. She teamed up with Blizzard Entertainment and Dark Horse Comics to tell a story set in the Starcraft universe that was separate from what was happening in game. It follows as a group of terran space scavengers as they try to pull off the job of a lifetime as they explore and pillage an abandoned ship. It takes on a horror type vibe that really adds to the overall atmosphere of the comic. Jody also helped co write Starcraft: Soldiers first comic alongside Andrew Robinson, a senior writer for animations and cinematics at Blizzard. Starcraft: Soldiers is set to release in January 2019. You can pick up Starcraft: Scavengers at your local comic book shop or on the Dark Horse website here. During my interview with Jody we had a surprise visit from Andrew himself! We talked the old comic, new comic and what it is like working with Blizzard Entertainment.
Julia Roth: Were you a fan of Starcraft prior to starting the comics?
Jody Houser: I know of Starcraft but I have always been very bad at strategy games so I haven’t really played much, but I have a lot of friends who were super into it so I know some about the lore and I definitely got to do some deep diving but since we are also dealing with new characters specifically it is very much more building something new in the existing world.
JR: So what kind of games do you like?
JH: It’s funny because I always say I’m sort of bad at strategy games but I love playing fighting games. I feel like I am good at handling one and one but when you have army versus army that’s when I am like too many pieces.
JR: Have you tried playing [Starcraft] since?
JH: I have no had time because I am too busy writing it but we have been given access to the game so when things quiet down I definitely want to dive in. It’s funny because the Starcraft comic is very much a horror story so I’m putting in that dread of like watching everything you are trying to do crumble because you can’t move fast enough. So I am taking my own anxiety about the genre and putting it into the comics.
JR: What is it like working alongside not only Dark Horse but Blizzard too?
JH: Well I mean its funny Andrew Robinson who is one of the main contacts on Blizzard, I’ve actually known him for years and he is the one who is doing the Starcraft: Soldiers comic that I co wrote the first issue of with him. So it was kinda fun also getting to work with a friend but you know Blizzard has been great but it is clear how much they love storytelling in all of their games like the lore and characters are just clearly so important to them and being able to tell these stories and create new characters and mediums you know it’s a thing they are into and they clearly dig comics and that is sort of the best licensing thing its like maybe they themselves haven’t made comics, although in this case Blizzard obviously has, but if there is a love for the medium there and the way you can tell a story different from the game or the tv show, those are the most fun projects.
JR: How was it writing a comic on something that is already so expanse?
JH: What was great about Starcraft: Scavengers is that it was a very isolated plot in a much larger picture. The story is self contained to the small bit of world along with all our own characters. Of course we had to keep to the sci fi genre but we had a lot of freedom too.
(This is when Andrew Robinson comes in and surprises Jody and I)
JR: How do you feel going forward and writing Starcraft: Soldiers in such an expansive universe?
Andrew Robinson: This is uh, you know I think we talked about Scavengers being more of a haunted house scenario and this is much more of us opening up, a planetary type military situation. It takes place mostly in a like a forward operating base where there in the wilds and there is not a lot of back up and have to make due with what they have. The only situation is a very hostile one.
JR: How do you feel working alongside Blizzard, correction you work for Blizzard! How is it to work for Blizzard?
AR: It’s a little bit kid in a candy store for me, if you had told me twenty years ago you are going to be writing animation and comic books for one of the biggest video game companies in the world that you played this and this, yeah no right. But I do content, animation
JH: Award winning animation!
JR: I can only imagine I hear so many people say that when they got hired at Blizzard they never work a day in their life because it’s amazing and fantastic. Now are comics more of a side thing for you outside of the animation portion or is this what you do more often?
AR: It’s all part of the job, so what my part is, story and franchise development, is creating narrative supplement surrounding all the games which sort of infuses the game with lore or characters or set up major storylines. We did animated shorts for World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth and we did the three Warbringers and prior to that in Legion we did the Harbingers. Now I wrote all the Harbinger episodes and one of the Warbringers episodes, I wrote Sylvanas. So that helps to set up things and ramp up emotions. For Overwatch I have written a number of cinematics and their comics. So we are supplementing lore and creating continuity. I wouldn’t call it a side job at all. For Starcraft it is almost a new kind of thing where instead of telling these stories about the demi gods, the terrans, and Kerregan we are moving the hammer away and opening up the universe.
JH: It is a lot of fun telling the stories of the people just trying to get by in this world.
AR: Yeah, its like there is stuff going on over here but boots on the ground, were not friends.
JH: They are criminals doing their own thing and just scavenging what they can. So they get in over their heads.
JR: Now you guys both do a lot of stuff, you [Jody] with all your other comics and everything you [Andrew] do at Blizzard. How do you balance your projects without going crazy?
JH: Mostly just figuring out what’s due first it’s sort of working in order of deadlines. It is honestly like what I call comics triage, it’s like this one is due here, this one is due now, and this one they needed like yesterday and just got back to me about so.
AR: She is the hardest working person in entertainment.
JH: Ah I don’t know about that but I’ll take it, thank you.
AR: I used to be a freelance animation writer so it is a very similar thing. I’ve run shows and worked on them but a lot of animation writing is freelance. Like Jody says it’s triage. For me it is also triage for me at Blizzard. It’s what comes up when it is needed what needs to be answered first. This cinematic is coming out at Gamescon, Blizzcon crunch time.
JR: Now what is your favorite thing that you guys have done like ever?
JH: Like ever? Oh wow okay I mean that’s hard for me. I don’t look at this for the dream job but for the dream career so the overall just range of things I’m doing like not what I am currently writing but the fact that I am writing horror stuff like Starcraft and Stranger Things or I am writing happier stuff or this sort of real world gritty stuff, I just like having a mix of projects I am working on so no matter what mood I am in there is something I need to work on that fits it.
AR: You really get to exercise all those different muscles. For me to name a single favorite thing, because I have written Spiderman, The Avengers and Young Justice and then this it’s insane. Like she said it is about the dream career.
JR: Guys thank you so much for all of this it was a pleasure meeting you guys.
JH: Thank you!
AR: Definitely a pleasure, thank you.
If you have not gotten a chance to read Starcraft: Scavengers, you should definitely get on that! It is absolutely amazing. To stay up to date with Jody Houser you can follow her twitter here and her personal web page here and don’t forget to follow Andrew Robinson on twitter here for all future news on the upcoming Starcraft: Soldiers comic!
[Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics]
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